Blog

  1. Exercise and Mental Health: Start and Stay Moving in the New Year

    Contributions by Megan Otto

    As we begin a new year, emphasis is often placed on losing weight, eating better, working out and overall improving yourself. While so much pressure is placed on physical attributes, improving your mental health is sometimes overlooked.

    Fortunately, research has proven that physical activity can not only help one’s body, but exercise and activity can also help improve overall mental health and wellness, too. 

    Exercise can help prevent a variety of health issues from high blood pressure to diabetes and arthritis. But according to the Mayo Clinic, there are also psychological benefits to physical activity, as exercise can help improve mood and reduce anxiety.

    Chemically, exercise helps increase the levels of serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain. This improves and normalizes neurotransmitter levels, which helps us to feel better and release mood-boosting endorphins.

    While this all sounds incredibly complex, achieving these feel-good chemical levels is actually quite simple. All you have to do is move your body – and you don’t have to be an elite athlete to do so.

    Best Exercises for Your Mental Health

    Aerobic exercise is one of the easiest and most common ways to enhance your mood, energy and reduce stress. And while the word “exercise” may make you think of running miles on a treadmill or lifting weights in a gym, there are simple ways to incorporate physical activity into your everyday life.

    Gardening, washing your car, taking the stairs or going for a walk around the block during your lunch break are easy ways to get your body moving, heart pumping and boost your mood. While it’s great if you feel inclined to lace up your sneakers for a jog or head to the gym for an hour, any physical activity that gets you up off the couch can do wonders for your mood and overall mental health.

    However, if you do decide to take things to the next level and incorporate regular exercise routines into your daily life, it’s important to listen to your mind and body to avoid overdoing it. If your body is not used to running five miles a day and you decide to jump right in, injuries can occur. Its best to pace yourself, set goals and build up to them.

    No matter how you decide to take on the new year – whether it be joining a gym, tackling a new workout regimen, or simply by taking the stairs more often – remember the mental health benefits associated to exercise and moving your body. There’s so much more to a good sweat than burning calories or building muscle, relieving stress and boosting your endorphins are also key benefits.

    Experiencing pain from an increased workout regimen? We can help!

    If you’re looking for advice on how to work up to your fitness goals without sustaining an injury, or if you are experiencing pain from an elevated exercise routine, give us a call today! Our trusted physical therapists are here to help you manage any aches and pains you may incur while improving your mental and physical health.

  2. Concussions: they’re not just for athletes

    Contributions by: Megan Otto & Amanda Whalen, PT, DPT 

    When someone hears the word “concussion” their thoughts may immediately jump to a young athlete, maybe a soccer or football player, who has sustained a hard blow to their head in a game or during practice. But concussions aren’t just injuries that athletes endure. Older adults are also a large population who are prone to suffering from concussions. 

    A concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) that is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head. Concussions can also be caused by indirect force to the head, such as a fall or a blow to the body that causes the head to move rapidly back and forth.   

    Concussions are often missed or even misdiagnosed among older adults, so caregivers and family need to be on high alert for signs and symptoms. Most concussions seen in older adults are related to an injury from a fall. PRN physical therapist, Amanda Whalen, suggests that older adults often do not mention falls to others or they may not verbalize the symptoms they are suffering from.  

    Being aware of concussion signs and symptoms is critical to catching a concussion, which is often a missed injury as you cannot physically “see” it. There are four key categories that concussion symptoms are often grouped in, and they are depicted in the chart below:  

    PhysicalPsychologicalEmotionalSleep
    HeadachesDizzinessBalance problemsNauseaVision issuesNoise and light sensitivityEye strainFeeling tired or having no energyConcentration issuesDifficulty remembering new informationDifficulty thinking clearlyIrritabilitySadnessMore emotionalAnxiety or nervousnessSleeping more than usualSleeping less than usualTrouble falling asleep

    Typically, a concussion will heal within seven to 10 days. But if the signs and symptoms noted above are missed and trauma to the brain continues, treatment and concussion recovery can take much longer. Thankfully, physical therapy can help! 

    Individuals suffering from concussions can find that physical therapy treatment can help relieve symptoms and be beneficial to recover.  

    “When a patient suffering from a concussion comes in for treatment, balance is a big thing that we work on,” says Whalen, PT. “We also work on the neck to relax guarded muscles and make sure that joints are moving properly. All of these affect balance and other typical day-to-day activities, like driving or going to school.” 

    Low impact activities, like walking or riding a stationary bike, are also proven to help those recovering from a concussion get back to normal. But not all activities are beneficial. Those involving technology, such as watching TV, working on a computer or staring at a phone screen, can have a big impact on the return to normalcy and can prolong symptoms. This is an important reminder for individuals who may be bored during recovery — technology is not always our friend! 

    Whether you or a loved one has suffered from a concussion before, the most important thing to remember is that if any of the symptoms of a concussion are being experienced, you should tell someone. Listening to your body is so important, especially with concussions as putting off treatment can prolong recovery. 

    “You have to be aware that this (a concussion) is not just going to affect your next week, it is going to affect you for the next year if you don’t take care of it,” says Whalen. “The more trauma, the more blunt forces to the head or falls that you have, it is going to be detrimental to your brain health as well.” 

    If you or someone you know has recently had trauma to the head and is experiencing any signs and symptoms of a concussion, we urge you to reach out to your physical therapist for treatment. Concussions are often overlooked as they are an injury that cannot be seen, but physical therapy can aid in and accelerate recovery. You can find your nearest clinic location here. 

    Special thanks to Amanda Whalen, PT, DPT, from our sister location PRN in La Jolla, California. 

  3. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance during the COVID-19 pandemic: Tips on setting boundaries and incorporating physical activity into your everyday routine

    Contributions by: Megan Otto & Reece Jensen, DPT, OCS

    The line between work and home life has blurred over the past few months as many individuals have transitioned to working from home as a safety measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This “new normal” brings new challenges as well — such as learning when and how to turn off the work switch when your office is now a part of your home.

    Maintaining a healthy work and life balance has been a constant struggle for individuals in the workforce, but many have experienced added stress since they’ve begun to work from home. A lack of a work and life balance can be detrimental to the body and lead to increased fatigue, poor overall health and a loss of time with family and loved ones.

    “If work stress is not balanced and negated with exercise, rest or recreation, we tend to develop conditions that are bad for our health: tension headaches, bad digestion, low energy levels and poor sleep,” says Reece Jensen, DPT, OCS and a physical therapist with 30 years of experience. “These symptoms can occur, along with increased family or relationship stress.”

    Setting limits such as scheduling specific work hours during the day and turning off your phone or computer after work, can help combat work stress. Learning to say “no” and detaching from work are also good boundaries to set.

    It is also critical that you take time to care for yourself, both physically and mentally. Physical therapy is one way to make time for yourself and promote balance in your life. Physical therapy can teach healthy stretches and exercise routines to help improve body performance and prevent future injuries. Additionally, stretching and physical activity help burn off the physiological damage that can build up from stressful days at work.

    Jensen suggests that managing stress is just another facet of physical therapy and rehabilitation.

    “Life is about stress and there is no way around it. Having zero stress is actually more stressful and can be unhealthy,” says Jensen. “There is good, positive stress like motivation, desire, goal achievement and performance, as well as bad, negative stress like tension, frustration, fatigue, boredom, fear and personal safety. As physical therapists, we help teach patients to manage the negative stress and establish routines that promote good, positive stress.”

    Stretching and physical activity force the body to focus on proper breathing which helps to reduce stress in the body. Specifically, stretching helps to reduce tension in muscles that have tightened under stress, which often occurs when sitting at a desk all day. Meanwhile, aerobic exercise for as little as 20 minutes a day has been shown to reduce stress, improve your mood, reduce symptoms of depression and lower cardiac risk factors.

    Ultimately, it’s up to you to put methods into place to help achieve a healthy balance between work and home life and lower stress. But, don’t be afraid to reach out to your physical therapist for help. Whether you decide to add in a morning stretch or an evening workout to your daily routine, your physical therapist can guide you in what may be best for your body and help you achieve your desired work-life balance!

    Special thanks to Reece Jensen, DPT, OCS, from our sister location PRN Physical & Hand Therapy in Encinitas, California. If you are experiencing pain or increased stress, give us a call today! Our trusted physical therapists are here to help you manage any aches and pains related to maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

  4. Breaking News: PTs, OTs, and SLPs Deemed Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers

    (Blog article is sourced from WebPt.com – click here to learn more about WebPT)

    On March 19, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the US Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum and associated guidance designating physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists as “essential critical infrastructure workers.”

    According to the official guidance, which is intended to help state and local officials make safe and prudent decisions for the health and safety of their communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, “If you work in a critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”

    Furthermore, the guidance promotes “the ability of such workers to continue to work during periods of community restriction, access management, social distancing, or closure orders/directives,” as their job functions are “crucial to community resilience and continuity of essential functions.”

    However, the release emphasizes that the list of essential workers “is advisory in nature” and that it “is not, nor should it be considered to be, a federal directive or standard in and of itself.” Again, it is intended to help guide decisions at the state, local, tribal, and territorial levels, as these governing bodies are “ultimately in charge of implementing and executing response activities in communities under their jurisdiction, while the Federal Government is in a supporting role.”

    Additionally, the guidance encourages workers to perform their jobs remotely whenever possible, stating that “in-person, non-mandatory activities should be delayed until the resumption of normal operations.”

    See the full memorandum, guidance, and list of essential critical infrastructure workers here. We’ll continue to provide updates specific to the rehab therapy industry as more details emerge.

  5. 5 Holiday Giving Options Offering Healthful Returns

    The Holiday Season is a time for giving, and that includes supporting causes and organizations that make our communities stronger.

    It’s in this spirit that we share some holiday giving suggestions that offer a more healthful return than simply writing a check.

    After all, as physical therapists, it’s our goal to improve lives and the community by helping people move better and live healthier, more active lives.

    It’s based on this that we thought to offer some ideas for how people can give back to their communities while, at the same time, also benefiting from various levels of physical activity.

    Increase Joy, Reduce Stress

    Such an approach to holiday giving isn’t just about contributing to one’s 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, as recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services.

    The holidays are a pretty stressful time for a lot of people, and exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety while improving overall happiness. It just so happens giving and volunteering provide similar health benefits.

    Put them together, and you’re likely to experience a more joyful and relaxing holiday season.”

    With this in mind, consider following five ways to give back and be fit this Holiday Season:

    Volunteer ‘Sweat Equity’

    There are lots of ways to volunteer during the holidays, and many involve various levels of physical activity.

    Collecting gift donations for a local children’s charity, for instance, or helping sort and deliver food donations for a food pantry, requires time, muscle and (if it’s a charitable year) good endurance.

    Do a Charity Fun Run

    Running continues to grow in popularity, and so do charity fun runs – even during the colder months of the year.

    Registration for these runs typically goes to local charities, and some allow for added individual or team fundraising so you can maximize your donation.

    Check your local event calendar for options.

    Lend a Neighbor a Hand

    Most of us have neighbors who could use a helping hand on occasion, be they elderly, disabled, alone, or short on time or money.

    The holidays are a great time to check in with them and see if they could use some help with physical tasks like yard work, clearing the driveway of snow or ice, putting out Christmas decorations, or even childcare.

    Walk Your Best Friends

    Are animals your passion? Perfect! Animals need exercise just like people do, and most animal shelters welcome volunteers eager to play with and walk the dogs and cats.

    Not only is walking great exercise for both people and pets, but spending time with animals can also lower stress and blood pressure.

    Arm Your Smartphone

    If the interpersonal aspect of volunteering doesn’t quite fit your personality, you still have options.

    Some smartphone apps exist (Charity Miles is the most prominent) that allow you to convert workout miles and/or daily activity into donations to reputable nonprofit organizations.

    Of course, if one or more of these ideas sound appealing, but discomfort, pain or a movement limitation is holding you back from giving back in this way, come by the physical therapy clinic.

    At our clinic, we can assess the issue and put you on a path toward being more active – both physically and as a contributor to your community.

  6. Can Exercise Ward Off Cold and Flu Symptoms?

    As cold and flu season approaches, so does the season of illness prevention.

    From getting flu shots to adding a little extra Vitamin C to our diets, prevention often becomes a focus for those concerned with getting sick, missing work and/or school, and optimizing the joy of their upcoming Holiday Seasons.

    It’s based on this mindset that medical professionals such as physical therapists are most likely to get some version of the question: Can exercise boost my immune system?

    The answer, however, is broader than the question itself.

    Boosting the Immune System

    On a more general level, healthy living is the true key to building and maintaining a strong immune system. Habits like eating right, staying hydrated, getting plenty of sleep, and reducing stress account for some long-lasting, immune-boosting benefits.

    But, regular exercise definitely plays an important role, as well.

    Some studies have shown, for instance, that exercise on its own can play a role in reducing the length and intensity of colds and flu. Such research often points to many of the benefits inherent in regular fitness routines as factors that also help ward off illness:

    • Weight management
    • Lower blood pressure
    • Reduction in stress
    • Improved circulation

    Other studies have concluded that regular, mild-intensity exercise can help reduce illness while prolonged, high-intensity exercise can have the opposite effect by making one more susceptible to catching a bug.

    Based on this, if you feel you may be catching something – a cold, a flu or whatever may be going around – the best initial advice is to pull back on the length and intensity of their exercise routine just to be on the safe side.

    Keep getting your exercise, but also take greater care to make sure you’re staying hydrated, eating well and giving your body time to recover.

    If you do get sick?

    According to advice from the Mayo Clinic, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t continue to exercise. They offer the following two rules of thumb:

    The Neck Rule

    If you catch a cold and find that all the symptoms are concentrated above the neck (i.e., nasal congestion, runny nose, sneezing and/or a minor sore throat), it’s typically OK to exercise. Simply reduce your intensity. Instead of going for a jog, for instance, opt to go for a walk.

    In contrast, if you find that you’re experiencing symptoms below the neck – things like a congested chest, a hacking cough or an upset stomach – it’s best to not exercise at all.

    The Fever Rule

    Also, if you have a fever or are experience muscle aches and fatigue throughout your body, take a break from exercising. Instead, get some rest, stay hydrated and, if things don’t improve over a couple of days, visit your doctor.

    The bottom line: it’s always your best bet to listen to your body, and don’t overdo it. Pushing your body too hard when it’s fighting an illness could potentially do you more harm than good.